10 Tips for Better Design with Appropriate Font Usage | February 28th, 2011

Naturally, I recommend leaving print design to the professionals. But, realistically I know a lot of business people will find themselves playing designer at some point in order to get print materials created. If you’re one of those people, this article is for you.

Want to make a good impression with your next presentation? Hoping your ad, brochure or newsletter will attract more readers? Here are ten simple rules for text and font usage you should know before starting your next print project.

1. Keep it simple. With literally hundreds of fonts to choose from, it’s tempting to use several in your printed materials. However in most instances it is best to limit yourself to four fonts or less.

2. Use the “fancy” fonts very sparingly. If you feel the need to use a specialty font, reserve it for a brief heading or the masthead of a newsletter. Whatever font you choose, readability should be your first priority. Don’t make your readers work to decipher the letters.

3. Choose Times New Roman, Garamond or a similar font for paragraph text. These serif fonts are typically used in newspapers, magazines and books. (This article is written with a serif font.) They are the most easily recognized by the eye and therefore make your materials easier to read.

4. Use a sans serif font, such as Arial, for captions or small type. They are cleaner and reproduce better at a small size than serif fonts.

5. Don’t use all capitals. It does not bring any more attention to your information. In fact, it makes it more difficult to read. It’s Okay to use all caps to place emphasis on a word or phrase occasionally, but use a great deal of restraint here.

6. Don’t center everything. Again, your eye is used to seeing paragraphs with the text justified left. Your main goal is to make sure that large blocks of text are very readable. Centered text is appropriate for invitations and occasionally short lines of advertising text, but not much else.

7. Break up your paragraphs. Long blocks of text may discourage readers. Make sure your paragraphs are sufficiently broken down. An occasional bulleted or numbered list will help with readability as well, provided you don’t use them too often.

8. Avoid “boxitis”. Boxitis is the habit of placing borders around or colored backgrounds behind your paragraphs. The occasional box to draw attention to a piece of information is fine, but too many boxes and your materials will be hard to read.

9. Keep a clean color palette. No more than three colors for a typical newsletter, ad or brochure.

10. Size matters. While posters and flyers may require larger text, brochures and newsletters should follow some general rules: Paragraphs should be 10 to 12 point text, headings should be 18 to 24 point text, and captions should be 7 to 8 point text.

Appropriate Font Usage

In design, it is always best to practice restraint. Keep your font choices clean and simple, and your printed materials will get better results.

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